Kelso, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates: 55°36′00″N 2°25′59″W / 55.600, -2.433
Scottish Gaelic: Cealsaidh
Scots: Kelsae
Kelso seen from the Cobby Tweedside meadow

Scotland relief location map
Red pog.svg

Red pog.svg Kelso shown within Scotland
Population 5,989 
OS grid reference NZ025985
Council area Scottish Borders
Lieutenancy area Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district TD5
Police Lothian and Borders
Fire Lothian and Borders
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Kelso(Gaelic: Cealsaidh[1]), (Scots: Kelsae) is a market town in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, located where the rivers Tweed and Teviot have their confluence. The town has a population of just over 6,000; it is regarded as one of the most charming and quaint towns in the area with its cobbled streets, elegant Georgian buildings and French style cobbled market square. Kelso's other main tourist attractions are the ruined Kelso Abbey and Floors Castle, a William Adam designed house completed in 1726. The bridge at Kelso was designed by John Rennie who later built London Bridge.


The town of Kelso came into being as a direct result of the creation of Kelso Abbey in 1128. The town's name stems from the fact that the earliest settlement stood on a chalky outcrop, and the town was known as Calkou (or perhaps Calchfynydd) in those early days.

Standing on the opposite bank of the river Tweed from the now-vanished royal burgh of Roxburgh, Kelso and its sister hamlet of Wester Kelso were linked to the burgh by a ferry at Wester Kelso. A small hamlet existed before the completion of the Abbey in 1128 but the settlement started to flourish with the arrival of the monks. Many were skilled craftsmen, and they helped the local population as the village expanded. The Abbey controlled much of life in Kelso-area burgh of barony, called Holydean, until the Reformation in the sixteenth century. After that, the power and wealth of the Abbey declined. The Kerr family of Cessford took over the barony and many of the Abbey's properties around the town. By the 1600s, they virtually owned Kelso.

In Roxburgh Street, outside the Selkirk & Kelso Society Co-op, is the outline of a horseshoe petrosomatoglyph where the horse of Charles Edward Stuart cast a shoe as he was riding it through the town on his way to Carlisle in 1745. He is also said to have planted a white rosebush in his host's garden, descendants of which are still said to flourish in the neighbourhood.[2]


Kelso is unique in Scotland for having a cobbled square fed by four cobbled streets

Notable residentsEdit

Kelso town centre

Kelso Square

Sir Walter Scott attended Kelso Grammar School in 1783 and he said of the town, "it is the most beautiful if not the most romantic village in Scotland". Another attraction is the Cobby Riverside Walk which goes from the town centre to Floors Castle along the banks of the Tweed passing the point where it is joined by the River Teviot. Kelso has two bridges that span the River Tweed, "Rennie's Bridge" was completed in 1803 to replace an earlier one washed away in the floods of 1797, it was built by John Rennie of Haddington, who later went on to build Waterloo Bridge in London, his bridge in Kelso is a smaller and earlier version of Waterloo Bridge. The bridge was the cause of local rioting in 1854 when the Kelso population objected to paying tolls even when the cost of construction had been covered, the Riot Act was read, three years later tolls were abolished. Hunter's Bridge, a kilometre downstream, is a modern construction built to take much of the heavy traffic that has damaged Rennie's bridge by diverting vehicles around the town.

Famous people from Kelso have included civil engineer Sir James Brunlees (1816-1892) who constructed many railways in the United Kingdom as well as designing the docks at Avonmouth and Whitehaven. Sir William Fairbairn (1789-1874) was another engineer who built the first iron hulled steamship the Lord Dundas and constructed over 1000 bridges using the tubular steel method which he pioneered. Thomas Pringle the writer, poet and abolitionist, was born at nearby Blakelaw, a 500 acre farmstead four miles to the south of the town where his father was the tenant.

Modern amenities and eventsEdit

The town has much sport and recreation, the River Tweed at Kelso is renowned for its salmon fishing, there are two eighteen hole golf courses as well as a National Hunt (jumping) horse racing track, the course is known as "Britain's Friendliest Racecourse", racing first took place in Kelso in 1822.

In 2005 the town hosted the 'World Meeting of 2CV Friends' in the grounds of nearby Floors Castle. Over 7,000 people took over the town and are said to have brought in more than £2 million pounds to the local economy.

According to a letter dated October 17, 1788, 'The workmen now employed in digging the foundations of some religious houses which stood upon St. James' Green, where the great annual fair of that name is now held in the neighbourhood of this town, have dug up two sone [sic] coffins of which the bones were entire, several pieces of painted glass, a silver coin of Robert II, and other antique relics'.[3]

The town's rugby union team (Kelso RFC) are highly respected, and their annual rugby sevens tournament takes place in early August. Famous former players include John Jeffrey, Roger Baird, Andrew Ker and Adam Roxburgh, all of whom featured in 7's teams that dominated the Borders circuit in the 1980s, including several wins in the blue riband event at Melrose.

Every year in July the town celebrates the border tradition of Common Riding, known as Kelso Civic Week. The festival lasts a full week and is headed by the Kelsae Laddie with his Right and Left Hand Men. The Laddie and his followers visit neighbouring villages on horseback with the climax being the Yetholm Ride on the Saturday. There are many competitions and social events every day. There have been many songs written about Kelso (or Kelsae), (most notably "Kelsae Bonnie Kelsae") but the most recent one is "Yetholm Day", composed by Gary Cleghorn, a young follower of Civic Week for many years. The song tells the story of the Kelsae Laddie and his followers on the Saturday ride-out to Kirk Yetholm and Town Yetholm.

As a fund raiser for Kelso Civic Week Gary Cleghorn has involved Ex Laddies and locals to sing some of the old Kelso Songs, plus some new songs by local artists, on a CD; "Songs of Kelso", which will be sold in the town by local shops and public houses.

Floors CastleEdit

Floors castle is large statley home just outside Kelso. It is a popular visitor attraction in the Scottish Borders. Adjacent to the house there is a fabulous walled garden with a cafe, a small garden centre and the Star Plantation.


Kelso is twinned with two cities abroad:

References Edit

  1. ^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2003) Placenames. (pdf) Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  2. ^ Westwood, Jennifer (1985), Albion. A guide to Legendary Britain. Pub. Grafton Books. London. ISBN 0-246-11789-3. P. 378.
  3. ^ Coin Hoard Article

External links Edit

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Kelso, Scottish Borders. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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